Saturday, 10 March 2012

No Finance, No Romance

I sat there listening to them talk about everything and anything. They were a rowdy sort but they equally reminded me of my friends and I during university days. We were a rowdy group too. They sat close together at the fast food place. I had gone there to wait for my sister who had gone to shop at the nearest Shopping Center. I hated shopping and I was tired of walking from one shop to the other so I opted to wait for her while she went on to buy for whatever she wanted to get. There were four of them obviously fresh from the university and looking forward to a bright future. They were an excited lot and very refreshing compared to the hostile sun outside, one of the reasons why I decided to sit in the fast food place. At least I would be able to enjoy the air-conditioning before my sister turned up.

I tried not to listen to them. It was not in my character to eavesdrop on other people’s conversation but they were a boisterous group and I just couldn’t help but listen. “See, I am not going to marry someone who cannot provide for me. In fact, I put guys to test and if I suspect that you’re anywhere near being stingy, that’s the end.” One of them said. She was light skinned and very beautiful. She looked very confident and self assured.
“At least, you have a choice in who you will marry. My parents chose the man for me and he is my mother’s best friend’s son. I have no choice in the matter but the truth is Hausa men take care of their wives. Most often, you are not even allowed to work.” Said one of the girls who probably was from the Northern part of the country.
“I can’t imagine my parents choosing my husband for me in this day and age. Not working is out of the question. Why did I spend four years in the University just for me to become a house wife? Ha! I have to work o!” answered the third girl. This particular one looked like a modern day girl with all the modern day determination of girls who wants more to life than being a wife and a mother.
“What if your husband insist?” asked the light skinned girl
Lai-lai, that can’t happen. I am not going to wait for any man to provide for me. I can fend for myself at least that’s why my parents sent me to school.” The determined girl answered emphatically.
“Even if I work, earn all the money in this world, the man must provide. It is the duty of the man to provide. How can I respect him if he doesn’t meet his obligations? I beg o!” answered the light skinned girl.
“What if he looses all the money? What will you do? I will marry for love. I believe that marriage is a joint effort, a partnership. It does not matter who provides as long as there is an understanding” argued the fourth girl who had being quiet. She looked rather innocent.
“Ha! What has love got to do with the business of marriage?” asked the light skinned girl “You are sure of the old skool” she said and they all burst out laughing. The fourth girl was embarrassed as her friends laughed out loud. Everyone in the fast food place turned to look at them.

I felt compassion for her especially the way her friends laughed at her innocent response. I wish life was that simple but I have since come to understand that nothing was as simple as the four of them thought. In my younger days, my friends and I used to talk of marrying someone who had prospect and is responsible. Being rich wasn’t in the picture but just for him to have prospect.  We had since realised that even that may not be enough in safeguarding ourselves from going through financial abuse. I sneaked a look at the young ladies as they continued with their gist. “How nice to be young and free!” I thought.

I remembered my friends and I having almost the same discussion at one point and all of us feeling very self assured but it has not turned out as we envisaged. My friends, Devotion and Endurance shared their experience with me sometime ago. Devotion met her husband when we were at the university. They were much in love and we were not surprised that they quickly got married after graduation and settled down to marital life. Things were tough financially for them because they were both in a profession that is not as lucrative as being in the telecom or financial industry. Devotion was determined for them to live a comfortable life, so she combined jobs. While her husband just got by with whatever he could lay his hands on.  According to her, not once in all their twenty years of marriage did her husband give her house keeping allowance.

“Ose, I was always out there looking for what else to do just to make ends meet. I am the man of the house. I wear the trouser and he doesn’t mind. I pay the school fees, house rent, everything. It is scary now that Ifemide my son is in the University and I still have to pick the bills. The children don’t bother to go to him for anything. I suspect that they know I fund everything even though I try hard to cover up for him but they are not fools. I have noticed that Ifemide barely respects him.  The sad thing is while, I bring my money home to fend for us he spent his on himself.  The little he makes he spends on perfumes, toiletries, clothes, shoes etc. Once in a while, he will buy grocery and that’s all. I have tired to discuss this with him but each time he shrugged it off as if it doesn’t matter. I am tired I just can’t continue” she lamented. “I bear the financial burden of the house. The only thing is he assists with the house chores and allows me to concentrate on my business. Again, he was very supportive when my mother was very sick. I can’t fault him for that but bearing the whole financial burden is excruciating. I just wish he would support once in a while.”

I felt very sad listening to Devotion. I just can’t imagine how a man will feel comfortable allowing the woman to be the bread winner. I felt it was very irresponsible of her husband and I wanted to hug Devotion just to reassure her but I was shocked at   Endurance’s reaction.

“Devotion, you are spoilt” she said. I looked at Endurance in shock.
 “Why are you being insensitive?” I asked disgusted with her.
“Look, Devotion is lucky. If I was married to her husband, I would rejoice and willingly do everything for him.” Endurance replied. I starred at her astonished. I have always felt Ed was a feminist who will not take such nonsense from any man.
“How?” I asked. Sometimes, it is difficult to know when Ed is serious
“You surprise me Ed. Are you saying that my complaint is unfounded?” Devotion asked obviously hurt. I can imagine how she felt after all, girls should stick together.
“No I am not saying that. All I am saying is that you are luckier than I am. I am worst off. Just like you, I pay all the bills which include the house rent. I provide meals, clothe him. I mean I do everything, absolutely everything in the house and I end up being abused and unappreciated. See, Bennie will not lift a finger to do anything in the house. You see what upsets me most is that he would invite his friends over once I left for work and they would have a feast without any regard for the fact that I am the sole provider.” Endurance narrated.
“Common Ed, how did you get into this? You were a no nonsense person back in the University days.” I asked shocked at her story.
Ore, na so dem they ask person. We didn’t start out like that. In fact, we both contributed our quota the first year of our marriage at least financially. Then he got retrenched from his place of work during the financial sector wahala and I took over the responsibilities. After all, it wasn’t planned and I felt he would soon get another job. One year has turned to ten years now and I am the one still bearing the financial responsibility. I asked him to get a job but he said he would rather go into business. The business is more of a curse than a blessing o! Bennie is always claiming that his clients owe him. Even when I assisted him to get a project in my office, he still turned round to abuse me. In fact, he almost got me into trouble because the job was so badly executed.” She said
“I am sorry to hear this” I said
“I never finish ore. He borrowed money from me to execute some projects. He never paid back. I better not ask him for the money if I want peace o. Anyway, one day, I got tired and asked for a heart to heart discussion. I just couldn’t continue. I mean Bennie was going to run me bankrupt. I was doing well career wise but my account was in red. The man was borrowing money from me as if I own Central Bank. So we sat down for this discussion and I told him to get a job and that I had no intension of continuing the way we were. My sisters, that day he told me the story of how my mama met my papa and gave birth to me. He abused me so much that I was left speechless and confused. So, I decided not to fund any of his projects again. Since then, life has being hell. At least, Dev, your husband helps with the house chores, Bennie, is too macho to even lift a finger to do anything. You know because I refused to fund his entire bogus projects, he chased my younger sister back to my parents in a house I pay the rent. If I talk, he will say it is because I am richer than him. You know what I found out recently, Bennie has a landed property in Lagos."
“Ha!” echoed Devotion and I
“Yes, I almost fainted when I saw the receipts and other documents relating to the property in his name. I have being a fool o!” Endurance said. Her voice shook slightly and her eyes misted with tears. I felt extremely sorry for my friends. I could feel their pains.
“This is so unfair. Your story reminds me of my friend Lovelyn. Dev you remember her now. We came to your office together.
“Oh yes that’s true. What about her?”
“Her situation is so pathetic that my heart bleeds for her. Her husband starves her of funds. He drives luxury cars while my friend jumps on buses. She used to work in a bank and she was the sole provider for a long time while the husband was jobless. She did everything to make him feel comfortable but the sad thing is the husband turned mean immediately he got a job in one of the telecommunication companies. He started doing well, unfortunately, she lost her job. They both decided she should stay back home and take care of the kids but that has being her undoing. Her husband uses money to manipulate her. Anytime, they had a slight disagreement, he would starve her of funds. She told me she was so disturbed one day that she asked him why he felt she deserved to be treated the way he treated her since it was a joint decision for her to stay at home. You know he told her that she maltreated him while he was out of job and so it was his turn. Lovelyn told me, she used to give him her salary and he would only give her some stipends to spend during the month. She stopped giving him her salary the day he slapped her for spending out of her income to buy a pair of shoes without his knowledge.” I narrated

“Women dey suffer o!” Devotion said. “No wonder she looked so sad and forlorn. I was going to ask you about her after that time you came to my office because of how dejected she looked”
“She is very unhappy. She looked for a job but you know how our environment is. It has being very difficult. She tried going into business but her husband frustrated her.  He would promise to assist her and at the last minute he would change his mind for no apparent reasons. He has the money to give her as seed capital but just simply refused.”
“What do we do as women? How do we free ourselves from this mess? We started out so hopeful but….” Devotion said despondently
“But you know this is a form of abuse. In fact it is called financial abuse.” I said
“Abuse? How? Who has ever heard of financial abuse?” Devotion asked
“Ose you don start o! What is it with pycho analysis?” Endurance asked
 “This is a form of abuse that comes in different ways. The most common is when the husband because of his financial muscle, denies his wife access to funds like Lovelyn. The idea is she will not be financially empowered as he is so that she can be permanently subjected to him. He denies her of funds or just gives enough not to starve her and the children but never enough for her to have extra. In most situations, she is not allowed to work or be employed in any way. This kind of abuse is most prevalent in the society.  This is why most women will never agree to become home makers because it is a job that does not attract financial empowerment. Sometimes, the woman is subjected to sub human behaviour just because she is at her husband’s mercy.” I explained “The other type is what you guys are going through. The truth is that it is often subtle at the initial stage and as women, we often start out wanting to assist but we surely get our fingers burnt.”
“You know you are right. I started out wanting to cover up for Bennie because he lost his job and I didn’t want it to affect his self esteem” Endurance replied
“It didn’t really matter to me who was doing what.  I just wanted us to be comfortable and live well. Moreover, I didn’t want Ifemide to suffer so I worked hard to provide for the family. “Devotion said quietly.
“I know what you mean. Don’t blame yourself because you meant well for your family. The point is that men who behave like that are often opportunist. They can also be emotional and physical abusive.” I explained
 “I don’t know what to do now. Ose what can I do?” she asked eagerly